At PNNL, chemical engineering research is addressing some of the nation’s greatest energy and environmental challenges. We develop materials, unit operations, and chemical processes at scales ranging from molecular interactions to engineering-scale experiments, through full-scale demonstrations for government sponsors and commercial industries. We leverage other PNNL core capabilities such as applied materials science and engineering, biological and bioprocess engineering, chemical and molecular sciences, nuclear engineering, and systems engineering and integration.
Our focus areas include biomass conversion research to develop new chemicals and fuel sources and research to help solve the nation’s legacy nuclear waste challenges. For example, our researchers are developing nuclear waste processing and immobilization technologies and supporting the startup of the Hanford Waste Treatment Plant.
Our team includes chemical and mechanical engineers and scientists with expertise in a wide range of research areas—including catalysis and reaction engineering, gas and liquid phase separations, heat exchange, process intensification, fluid dynamics and mixing, thermal-mechanical modeling, and techno-economic analyses. Other areas of expertise include radioactive and nonradioactive nuclear waste treatment (from milligram to ton-scale), encompassing slurry transport and mixing, glass melting, advanced rheology, and fluid dynamics for complex multi-phase systems.
Our efforts have resulted in successes such as the development and commercialization of NOx reduction units for automobile emissions control. We lead the development and application of software to predict the thermal and structural performance of spent nuclear fuel storage and transportation systems. Other successes include the invention and development of micro-technology-based reactors and separations systems.
We conduct research for several federal sponsors including DOE’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Office of Environmental Management, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, Office of Fossil Energy, Office of Nuclear Energy, the Advanced Research Projects Administration-Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense.